A Luminous Transient Event in a Sample of WISE-selected Variable AGNs

October 2018 • 2018ApJ...866...26A

Authors • Assef, R. J. • Prieto, J. L. • Stern, D. • Cutri, R. M. • Eisenhardt, P. R. M. • Graham, M. J. • Jun, H. D. • Rest, A. • Flewelling, H. A. • Kaiser, N. • Kudritzki, R. -P. • Waters, C.

Abstract • Recently Assef et al. presented two catalogs of active galactic nucleus (AGN) candidates over 30,093 deg2 selected from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observations. From their most reliable sample, Assef et al. identified 45 AGN candidates with the highest variability levels in the AllWISE catalog but that are not blazars. Here we present new spectroscopic observations of some of these targets to further constrain their nature. We also study their optical light curves using observations from the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey (CRTS) and find that only seven show significant optical variability, and that five of those seven are spectroscopically classified as AGNs. In one of them, WISEA J094806.56+031801.7 (W0948+0318), we identify a transient event in the CRTS light curve. We present a detailed analysis of this transient and characterize it through its CRTS light curve and its multiwavelength spectral energy distribution obtained from GALEX, Pan-STARRS, and WISE observations. We find that the most likely source of the transient is a superluminous supernova (SLSN) in W0948+0318. We estimate the total radiated energy to be E = (1.6 ± 0.3) × 1052 erg, making it one of the most energetic SLSNe observed. Based on the lack of change in mid-IR color throughout and after the transient event, we speculate that the location of the SLSN is within the torus of the AGN. We identify nine possible analogs to W0948+0318 based on their WISE light curves. None show optically detected transients and hence suggest significant dust obscuration. Finally, we estimate a rate of >2 × 10-7 yr-1 per AGN for these transients under the conservative assumption that none of the identified analogs have a common origin with the transient in W0948+0318.


IPAC Authors

Roc Cutri

IPAC Deputy Director